According to data from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), 28 million American adults have high cholesterol and a staggering 94 million are borderline risks for the condition. While you might be familiar with some of the effects high cholesterol may have on your health, it could also affect your life insurance policy. Bankrate’s insurance editorial team, which has a combined 47 years of insurance industry experience, details what you need to know about purchasing life insurance with high cholesterol.

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Life insurance and high cholesterol

When applying for a life insurance policy, your life insurance company will generally require you to complete a medical exam as part of the underwriting process. The purpose of the exam is to get a gauge on your overall health, and it typically consists of a medical questionnaire to establish your medical history and a physical examination that includes a blood test. The blood test screens for a myriad of different conditions, one of which is high cholesterol.

If your total cholesterol level is between 200-339 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL), you are considered a borderline risk. A total cholesterol level of 240 mg/dL means you have high cholesterol. High cholesterol can limit your blood flow, which increases your risks of having a heart attack or stroke. There are no symptoms associated with high cholesterol itself, although there are symptoms of diseases related to high cholesterol.

How will high cholesterol impact my premiums?

Even the best life insurance companies evaluate the potential risk of insuring you when determining your premium. If you are considered a high risk, then your life insurance premium will probably be higher than lower-risk individuals. While a medical examination is one part of the underwriting process, life insurance companies will also look at other factors such as your age, medical history and even your hobbies.

Because high cholesterol can put you at risk for heart attacks and strokes, two of the leading causes of death in the U.S., insurance companies consider it a risk factor. If your cholesterol is particularly high, not well controlled with medication or if you have other health issues, you might even be denied coverage.

Can I lower my life insurance premium after I have my policy?

If you are able to lower your cholesterol levels, you may be able to request for your life insurance company to do another medical exam. If the results of the exam are favorable, you might see a decrease in your premium. You could also apply for a new life insurance policy, undergo a new medical exam and then replace your existing policy with the newer, lower-premium policy.

How to prepare for a life insurance medical exam

There are a number of steps you can take to prepare for your life insurance medical exam. If you know you will be obtaining life insurance in the near future, make sure that you plan out a day for your medical exam so that you can prepare for it ahead of time. A few steps you can take before your exam are to eat healthy meals, drink a lot of water, avoid alcohol for a few days and exercise. You may be asked to fast for at least six hours before your exam, so your fasting blood levels can be checked. To help make the fasting a little easier, you may want to consider scheduling your exam for the morning. During the medical exam, the examiner will take a blood sample and check your blood pressure and pulse, as well as other health metrics like your height, weight and blood oxygen level. They will ask you questions throughout the exam, so you may want to bring your medical records with you.

If you have high cholesterol and need life insurance quickly, you can expect to pay a higher premium than if your cholesterol levels are lower. If you have time to lower your cholesterol levels before buying a policy, you might see a lower rate.

Will my life insurance application be declined for high cholesterol?

Potentially. Every life insurance company has its own rating method, and if your cholesterol is very high, uncontrolled by medication or if you have other health issues in conjunction with your high cholesterol, your coverage might be denied.

If your application is declined and you don’t have time to lower your cholesterol before buying a policy, you may want to consider guaranteed issue life insurance, which is a type of whole life insurance. Guaranteed issue life insurance does not require a medical exam or health check and is, as the name suggests, guaranteed regardless of your health situation. However, these types of policies tend to have relatively low coverage limits, high premiums and may have minimum age requirements.

Frequently asked questions

    • If you’ve applied for and been declined coverage by a few different carriers, guaranteed life insurance may be a good option. Just keep in mind that this type of policy tends to be more expensive than life insurance policies that require medical exams, so you should expect a higher premium. Some providers may also have a minimum age requirement, which is typically from 50 to 80.
    • It depends on your needs and goals. While whole life insurance covers you for the entirety of your life (as long as you pay the premiums), term life insurance only covers you for a set period of time, usually 10 to 30 years. Whole life insurance can help ensure that your family has financial support after you pass away and comes with some living benefits that you can use while you are alive. If you are buying coverage to protect your family from outstanding debts, term insurance might be a good choice, since you are theoretically working to pay off your debts and might not need the coverage long term.
    • The amount of coverage you buy will depend on your unique circumstances. You may only want enough coverage to pay for funeral expenses or to cover an outstanding debt, like a mortgage. Or you might want to provide your family or loved ones with money to live on to replace your income. You might even want a sum large enough to leave a financial gift to a spouse, your children or an organization. Using a life insurance calculator or working with an agent could help you choose an appropriate amount of coverage.